Sunday, February 08, 2009
Jacqui Smith's Nice Little Earner
I am almost open-mouthed at the Mail on Sunday's scoop that Jacqui Smith has claimed £116,000 of taxpayers' money for her "second home", which actually turns out to be her main family home in her Redditch constituency (Conservative gain). We know it's her main home, rather than a second home because her husband (who she employs as her parliamentary assistant at £40k a year) and her two children live there. The children go to local schools.
During the week Jacqui Smith stays at her sister's house in London. Surely it is the rent she (presumably) pays her sister which she would be entitled to claim back from the taxpayer? She uses as her defence the fact that she spends more nights in London than at her constituency home, even though a spokesman admits she arrives in London on a Monday morning and leaves on Thursday evening, meaning she must spend only three nights a week there. "She doesn't count the nights," says the spokesman. Oh, that's all right then.
The other defence which she is using is that it has all been cleared by the House of Commons Fees Office. That is no defence. As Guido points out, they trust the word of "Hon. Members" that they are telling the truth about their second homes.
Ms Smith has some questions to answer.
UPDATE: As Oliver Drew points out in the Comments, the MoS article also makes clear that she had a grace and favour home offered to her. If she had taken it up she would not have been able to claim the second home allowance. So she decided to keep it in the family.
Graphic Hattip: Guido